By Jay Flannelly //@jflannez19
About the Author: Jay is a Massachusetts native, and a fan of the Patriots, Bruins, Celtics, and Mets (you read that right). He has his own Podcast, @Beavs_world that he hosts with @khoekstra. You can find out more at www.beavsworld.com
The 2019 New England Patriots stand at 8-1 at the bye, good enough for first place in the AFC East and hold the #1 seed in the conference. The offense has been hit hard by injuries, bad roster moves and a lack of identity.
Until the rough outing in Baltimore, the defense had been playing at a historic pace and often provided points and field position. Ravens result aside, this is still an excellent team with a combination of the greatest coach (Bill Belichick) and quarterback (Tom Brady) of all-time leading the way. Let’s Look at areas the Pats need to improve to raise banner #7.
Offensively, the 2018 World Champions won because they morphed into a tight end, run-heavy, power run attack late in the season. The offense rotated 3 backs- Sony Michel, James White, and Rex Burkhead situationally. While tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Dwayne Allen excelled sealing the edges. Catching the ball, Julian Edelman was a force from the slot while Phillip Dorsett chipped in an odd big play. Hammerhead fullback James Develin was versatile enough to lineup all over the formation and was a quiet force.
The 2019 Patriots could not replicate this recipe if they wanted. Gronk retired, Allen left in free agency and Develin is lost for the year due to injury. Heck, his backup is also on IR. The stout and powerful offensive line lost stud center David Andrews to a serious blood clot issue in training camp. 2018 1st round pick Isaiah Wynn was supposed to slide into the left tackle spot but just came off injured reserve. The team desperately needs him to come in and solidify the front wall.
With the OL shuffling and ever-changing, the rushing attack has suffered. Sony Michel, who excels in an I formation scheme, has been hard hit, literally and figuratively. James White has been James White and is clearly a favorite of both the head coach and QB. The pass protection has also been spotty and Brady and the air attack have been hit and miss. One positive out of the Baltimore loss was that trade acquisition of wide receiver #14 Mohamed Sanu had a strong 1st game with the team.
In the Ravens defeat, fans could sense offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels and Brady might have figured out the best possible attack for the 2019 Patriots: 11 personnel. 3 Wide receivers, 1 tight end, 1 running back with up-tempo. The team used this with great success vs Baltimore and is really not equipped roster wise to play man ball.
Short, quick passes, darting runs, and spread looks can create lanes and creases just as much as blow out blocks.
In order for this offense to function, 1st round pick WR N’Keal Harry and fellow rookie WRs Jakobi Meyers and Gunner Olszewski must contribute just by sheer numbers.
Michel must be better in the passing game and veteran Rex Burkhead is perfect combo back for this scheme but #34 HAS to stay healthy. The tight ends are not Gronk but Ben Watson is a pro and makes few mistakes. TEs Ryan Izzo and Matt LaCosse had moments in preseason but need to get on the field and contribute.
If you’re looking for someone to kill the Pats defense after the last game, go look somewhere else. Baltimore has a non-traditional scheme, system, and quarterback. They had an extra week to prepare for the game. They played great. New England’s defense is set up to defend the 2019 NFL, not the veer and other gimmicks.
I am confident in this group, Coach Belichick and his staff. Ravens aside, the run D has had some leaks but this AGAIN a scheme thing. The Patriots often play 2 defensive linemen with 4-6 linebackers standing up backed by the best secondary in football. The D is still strong in New England.
In summary, the Patriots need to stop trying to fit round pegs in square holes offensively. One of the hallmarks of the New England dynasty is adaptability. Brady and Belichick have won with Troy Brown, Randy Moss, Deion Branch, and Edelman as top wideouts. Antowain Smith, Corey Dillon, BenJarvis Green-Ellis and Michel at running back. The team sets the system by the roster. Do what the Patriots do well and what their players do well. Defensively? They have always been multiple and flexible.
If the Patriots make these adjustments, the Ravens game will be a distant memory and the entire NFL will pay.
Talk Patriots with Jay on Twitter @JFlannez19